Humans of New York: Lenny's Pizza

Jun 10, 2021 259

“I was kicking rocks when I first started working here. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve always been proud of the place. They filmed Saturday Night Fever here, so it’s kinda famous. But I just didn’t feel like it was my purpose in life. I’d gone to college to be an artist. I wanted that freedom. I planned on illustrating children’s books. But I knew my dad needed me here. And I knew how much he’d sacrificed for us.

It’s not like his purpose in life was to open a pizzeria. He had his own dreams growing up. He once told my grandfather he wanted to be a doctor. But his family back in Italy needed help, so he did what he had to do. He wasn’t home much when I was growing up. His presence was always there. My mom could say ‘I’m calling your father,’ and we’d all get quiet. But physically he was always here-- at the pizza place. It was his life. And now it’s my life too.

It’s been twenty years now. Fourteen hours a day. So I guess I did lose my freedom in a lot of ways. But it’s been real. It’s been really real, that’s the best way to put it. I never expected all these little transactions to turn into a lifetime of friendships. I’ve got this guy coming in here—he’s 84, been in two wars, three toes shot off. But we can still eat a slice of pizza and find commonalities. You don’t get that sitting at a desk with a bunch of other 40-year-olds. Those moments add up to something.

One of my favorite customers was a lady named Marlene. She’d been coming here since she was a kid. Smart? Forget about it. But Marlene was scared of everything: bridges, trains, steps, you name it. She always took the same street to get here. She’d hug the wall so she didn’t fall. But she made it in here every single day, for a slice of vegetable pizza. Marlene passed away from Leukemia several years ago. And I took off work so I could drive out to Long Island for her funeral. I hit a little traffic coming from Brooklyn, so I ended up being fifteen minutes late. But when I arrived the whole family was waiting for me. They wouldn’t start without me. Come to find out I knew Marlene better than anybody. This lady was just coming into get a slice of vegetable pizza, every day. But those slices add up.” #comebacknyc

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SOURCE: Humans of New York

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